SAN ANTONIO - The South Texas Veterans Health Care System has promised to add seating to the lobby of a Northwest Side VA clinic, days after KSAT 12 cameras captured video of military veterans and their loved ones sitting outside while waiting for appointments.
Pictures obtained by The Defenders show that veterans, some of whom are disabled, are forced to stand in lines or lean against walls inside the building, since the first-floor lobby has no seating accommodations.
"I'm treated like an animal. I've seen dogs at the dog pound treated better," said Francisco Canales, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, who was injured while fighting during the Vietnam War. "You have two options: You sit on the floor or you lean up against the wall. Well, if you're handicapped like I am, it's difficult for me to sit on the floor, then get up again."
Veterans have gone to the facility for 10 years for dental appointments, seven years for eye appointments and for the past five years for audiology appointments, a VA spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.
"They should be doing more for the vets," said Felma Gallagher.
Gallagher's husband, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, suffers from a bone disease, which makes it difficult for him to walk up and down the stairs in front of the building. Despite their vehicle having handicap license plates, the couple was forced to park in the back row of the front parking lot.
Last week, another veteran driving a truck that was hauling a motorized wheelchair circled the lot for 25 minutes, waiting for a handicap parking spot to open up.
The building's manager, who said the building's wheelchair ramp meets the minimum requirements for a medical facility, referred all questions related to this story to the VA administration.
A VA public affairs officer repeatedly declined to make South Texas Veterans Health Care System Director Robert Walton available for this story.
Instead, the VA released the following statement:
“South Texas Veterans Health Care System leases the Datapoint Clinic. As soon as we became aware of the seating situation, we took immediate action and contacted the building owner. We are working with the building owner to add the front lobby to our existing lease in order to accommodate our Veterans who present for an appointment. South Texas is working diligently to ensure this is resolved as soon as possible.”
Four days after the VA released the statement, veterans and family members could still be seen sitting outside on stone walls.
Responding to a followup request from The Defenders Tuesday to interview Walton, the public affairs officer said the agency "stands firm" on its original statement.
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